State leaders are worried Rhode Island will be undercounted in the 2020 Census. A group of volunteers, including elected officials, policy makers, activists, and members of the private sector are trying to change that.
Nearly a quarter of the state’s residents are considered so-called ‘hard to count’ populations. Finding those people and getting them to fill out the census is the purpose of Rhode Island’s Complete Count Committee, which held an initial meeting Monday.
John Marion, head of good government group Common Cause Rhode Island saiud a controversial citizenship status question could keep people from responding, and is currently working its way through the courts.
“Even if the citizenship question is struck down by the Supreme Court, I still anticipate that this Census is going to be more political than past census, or perceived as more political, and we’re going to have to overcome a lot of skepticism about this process,” Marion said.
Some of the work of the committee will be dispelling fears that information will be used to target immigrants and undocumented residents.
“Rhode Island has a large immigrant population and the estimates are that the presence of the citizenship question is going to discourage participation, and that translates directly into loss of representation and loss of federal funding,” Marion said.
Rhode Island could lose a seat in the House of Representatives after the 2020 Census, especially if the response rate is low. Marion said it now falls to volunteers like those who are part of the committee, as well as private philanthropy to ensure an accurate count, asbillions of dollars in funding could be on the line.
“Many of the programs that the philanthropic community cares about, in education, anti-poverty, healthcare, are funded using census data,” Marion said.
Providence County hosted the nation’s only test for the 2020 Census. Those results are expected sometime this year, according to Marion.